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One of the guys in my class pissed me off by existing. You know the type, someone just doesn’t fit your ideal and everything about them makes you roll your eyes. You watch them pick up a pen, and that small gesture pisses you off.
After a while, wandering into the school by 8:30 murdered my psyche. I couldn’t find it in me to get up early enough to do my make-up anymore so I would do it before class at my station. Bedraggled black hair, clutching a coffee and protecting my eyes from the sun that I was sure was out to get me. The classmate who annoyed me was there, sitting in the semi-dark, shaking nervously. Darren was his name. He had a wife and two toddlers that he always had a phone call about before he would suddenly have to “head home.” He would sweat frantically, breathing deep, always looking worried. After a month or two of being in class with him, it became obvious that he was always high on something. Still, Miss B— was too intoxicated herself to really say anything to him. She’d mumble, “Ok…” and Darren would hurry out. Before Darren went completely downhill, he was at the academy early. This particular morning, he sat watching me do my makeup.
I scowled a little at him before collapsing into my own seat. Gurgling something heinous about mornings before staring at myself in the mirror like a couch potato. Then, I'd slowly break out my makeup and start making myself look less zombified. Miss B— would wander in drunk at any moment now, I had to hurry before she slurred something along the lines of:
“You have to do that at home or in the bathroom before class starts.”
Miss B— was drunk for the entire duration she was our instructor. Everyone knew it. To make matters worse, there was evidence that her husband was beating her. One day, she came in late with a black eye. To my knowledge, it was never addressed. The two perils went hand in hand. Either Miss B— was getting drunk to deal with the abuse or she was getting beat up because of her alcoholism.
Out of peripheral, I could see Darren looking at me. I hate being under someone’s eye, having my every move scrutinized as I work. It’s terribly unnerving. I paused, slightly glaring at him while holding up my foundation brush. “What!?” I said.
His face, which was always pink like a pigs, now reddened. “Sorry, I’ve just always been fascinated by makeup. I watch my wife do hers all the time, it’s interesting to me how women do it.” I shook my head, annoyed while focusing back in the mirror. There was one part of me that thought Darren had a crush on me while a whole other part of me considered he had to be gay, and severally fighting it. Though it was 21st Century, it wouldn’t be unheard of if he had been in the closet.
Raya later told me over Chinese food at lunch that Darren was pretty sure I hated him. I laughed, with a mouthful of lo mien, I replied that that was only half true. Raya was misunderstood… She seemed aggressive and a tyrant upon first meeting her but she was quite the opposite. Raya’s heart was in the right place and if she liked you, she would do anything for you. She had five kids at home, a husband in jail, and a mother she was caring for after her mother lost her mind and stabbed her step-father to death. There was a lot going on under the surface of Raya that hardly anyone knew about. Other than Charlie, and later Darren, no one took the time to get to know Raya. I’m laughing a little writing that last sentence, because I can hear her famous quote:
“I'm here to make friends. I’m 36 years old with kids to raise, what the fuck do I care about these bitches?”
Raya’s caring nature was probably part of the reason that she became friends with Charlie, who was pregnant. Her feet swelled so bad once that she had to take her shoes off while we were trying a new haircut on our mannequins. Miss B— gave her hell for that, while Charlie cried and Raya got in her face. As would become my ritual while at the Academy, I walked off to stretch my legs, catching only the tail end of this scenario.
Charlie was sweet, but could heat up quickly if provoked. Most of the time, she eased back down to earth as fast as she grew heated. A lot of that had to do with her up and down hormones, I’m sure. Considering most of the time I knew her, she was pregnant.
I’m not really sure how I became friends with Raya and Charlie. It just sort of happened when I distanced myself from Sarah and Cara, and they caught me eating lunch alone. That wasn’t something that bothered me, I wasn’t there to make friends either. Still, there must have been something about me that Raya and Charlie liked in order for them to bring a deathrock "white" girl into their embrace. I think Raya said she liked my attitude and Charlie liked my style. Sometimes that’s all you need to make new friends.
Before my friendship wandered over to them, I spent the first four weeks in beauty school hanging out with Cara and Sarah. Sarah was wiser than Cara was, and what Cara lacked in fearlessness and independence, Sarah made up for it. Cara was the prime example of a girl rebelling against her parents, in search of her identity with no clue as to who she was. When she chopped off her long dark brown hair into a bob, it was Raya who called her out asking if she was trying to be my twin. Cara got so angry, that it was the first step into her ditching Sarah and I. Even though neither of us had said it.
Sarah just showed up to school less and less… She had no financial help and spent her nights fighting with her boyfriend while he hung out with his friends and some other girl whose name was literally “Hawaii.” She cried to me once in the bathroom that she didn’t know how she was going to pay her rent or eat that week. I believe there were more factors that led to her exit of the Academy…one of them being a student teacher named Andrew.
Andrew graduated from the Academy the semester before we started. Now he was a student teacher to Miss B—. Looking back, he was probably the one truly teaching behind the scenes thanks to Miss B—'s alcoholism. He had fiery red hair, a goatee, and dressed like an old timey barber that had become the trademark of the hipster. Always with a bow tie like Arnold Rothstein. He claimed to enjoy my snarky humor, which made me feel uneasy when he started having lunch with Cara, Sarah, and myself. I relaxed when I realized it wasn’t really me he was interested in. Still, it hastily bordered on uncomfortable, just all out weird when he began flirting so vaguely that he couldn’t get in trouble for it. Though, thankfully the flirtation was not with me, the idea of an older man with kids and a wife hitting on two 19 year old girls disturbed me. So I drifted off to have lunch alone. I don’t think Cara ever caught on to that, but Sarah certainly did. It wasn’t until Andrew asked her to be his hair model for a job interview that Sarah seemed to understand what he was doing.
Sarah had agreed to Andrew’s request to cut her long hair off into layers laying just a little passed her shoulders. The cut itself actually looked great, but Sarah told me she cried when she got home. It wouldn’t be unheard of, a woman crying about her hair, but there might have been something more going on there. I won’t go as far as to say that she was assaulted, still the level of inappropriateness that Andrew presented, though vague, would be evidence enough if he got one of them alone.
Sarah ordered him to pay for her hair extensions, to my knowledge he never did.